1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
What a wild passage. A man old in his age, childless, becomes resigned to the the fact that his fortune will simply be given to someone else in his household. Being childless was a very real, very clear point of pain for Abram and Sarai (who later become Abraham and Sarah). It’s a reason for doubt, pain, and strife for many people still today. What’s amazing in this passage, and the next couple of chapters, is how clearly God addresses that pain.
Here God tells Abraham that his offspring will be his heir. He then takes him outside and basically says what he says more explicitly in chapter 17, that his offspring will be many, that his descendants will be like the stars in the sky. This man, old in his age and childless, will become the father of many nations. It’s easy to offer empty condolences and hope from a text like this. We often look to passages like this for encouragement and see that God relieved Abraham and Sarah from their strife and healed the biggest sore spot they had by delivering to them a son. I want to be careful in doing that though. Lent keeps us grounded. Sure Abraham is promised a multitude of descendants, but the more important piece is that he believed the Lord. His belief is counted as righteousness and it’s from that righteousness that a promise like this is even made.
I can’t promise you that whatever suffering you might be dealing with will be healed during your lifetime. I truly wish I could. I do, however, feel confident in telling you that the perspective you have towards that thing can change the course of your life. Abraham’s belief in the promises of God alleviated his pain. For us, an eternal perspective is needed to know that a trusting belief in the work of Christ on the cross guarantees us freedom from sin and pain, not here in this lifetime, but in eternity.
This is good news for us that should prompt us into action. We, as the church, are called to continue the work of God with the help of the Spirit here on Earth, which includes tending to the sick, caring for widows and orphans, helping the impoverished. We’re called into action to help give the world a taste of the new Heavens and new Earth. We’re called as a community to help each other endure the hardships of this life with a hope pointed towards a glorious end, when the promises of the cross are realized once and for all.
Prayer and Reflection
Pray that God helps you see your points of pain from an eternal perspective. Ask for empathy in seeing the pain in others and wisdom to know how to serve them best.